Is this the greatest cast ever?

Gary Oldman in a scene from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Photo / Supplied
Gary Oldman in a scene from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Photo / Supplied

TINKER Tailor Soldier Spy, released in cinemas this week, is fantastic for many reasons, not least of which is its amazing cast.

Featuring pretty much every single awesome British actor working today (Clive Owen must've been busy), the film does a splendid job of intermingling the various talent.

Gary Oldman's late career renaissance continues with his Oscar buzz-generating leading role as the reserved George Smiley, with Oldman's peers Colin Firth, Ciaran Hands and Toby Jones as Smiley's co-workers.

Check out the trailer:

The new guard is represented by rising stars Tom Hardy (soon to be seen as the bad guy in The Dark Knight Rises) and Benedict Cumberbatch (just cast as the villain in JJ Abrams' Star Trek sequel).

Stellar character actors like Stephen Graham (Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire) and the chameleon-esque Mark Strong (Kick-Ass) fill out the edges, while wrinkly icon John Hurt (Alien) brings effortless gravitas as the big boss.

Director Tomas Alfredson's deft juggling of all this talent (no one actor seems undervalued) got me thinking about other films overflowing with great actors that manage to give everyone their due.

The cast of Oliver Stone's JFK (1991) is so jam-packed full of top tier talent (Donald Sutherland; Tommy Lee Jones; Ed Asner; Gary Oldman; Jack Lemmon; Micheal Rooker; Joe Pesci; Walter Matthau; John Candy), it's considered cheating if you use the movie while playing the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

But while they all do stellar work, there isn't a whole heap of cast-wide interaction.

In seeking out great ensemble casts, it quickly becomes apparent that the main thread in such films is a director everybody wants to work with.

The films of both Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds) always feature a bountiful collection of great actors, but they tend to feel secondary to the personality of the films themselves.

Paul Thomas Anderson laid out one of the greatest ensembles ever with 1997's Boogie Nights, and went on to build an informal repertory company from the cast, John C Reilly; Phillip Seymour Hoffman; William H Macy and Phillip Baker Hall.

The late Robert Altman, one of Anderson's most direct inspirations, always managed to corral a great cast for his movies, with both Short Cuts (Julianne Moore; Jennifer Jason Leigh; Fred Ward; Robert Downey Jr; Frances McDormand just to name a few) and The Player (Tim Robbins; Fred Ward; the late great Brion James; Sydney Pollack; Vincent D'Onofrio) strong contenders for greatest cast ever.

Woody Allen never fails to draw the cream of the acting crop, with his latest Midnight In Paris (Owen Wilson; Marion Cotillard; Michael Sheen) no exception. But Allen can be quite indiscriminate with his storytelling, and it's not rare for a great actor to only appear in one or two scenes in his movies.

Christopher Nolan is fantastic at casting - I love how he put Tom Berenger in Batman Begins and Eric Roberts in The Dark Knight - and his movies always feature impressive ensembles, but they can sometime get a tad lost in all the bombast.

What do you consider the greatest cast ever assembled? Here's a couple more suggestions: Traffic, The Talented Mr Ripley, Wedding Crashers (seriously!), and The Game.

What about the worst cast ever assembled? My pick: New Year's Eve.

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